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BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?

Little Hawk 15 Sep 07 - 01:21 PM
Janie 15 Sep 07 - 12:45 AM
Amos 15 Sep 07 - 12:01 AM
Little Hawk 14 Sep 07 - 09:55 PM
Nickhere 14 Sep 07 - 08:33 PM
Little Hawk 14 Sep 07 - 08:18 PM
GUEST,kat out of town 14 Sep 07 - 06:43 PM
John Hardly 11 Sep 07 - 01:59 PM
Little Hawk 11 Sep 07 - 01:49 PM
Uncle_DaveO 11 Sep 07 - 08:56 AM
Slag 11 Sep 07 - 05:14 AM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 07 - 04:33 PM
Amos 10 Sep 07 - 04:27 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 07 - 04:20 PM
katlaughing 10 Sep 07 - 03:11 PM
Uncle_DaveO 10 Sep 07 - 02:05 PM
Uncle_DaveO 10 Sep 07 - 02:00 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 07 - 01:05 PM
John Hardly 10 Sep 07 - 12:51 PM
Little Hawk 10 Sep 07 - 12:28 PM
Amos 10 Sep 07 - 12:28 PM
Little Hawk 10 Sep 07 - 12:13 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 07 - 12:11 PM
katlaughing 10 Sep 07 - 11:38 AM
Amos 10 Sep 07 - 10:50 AM
Little Hawk 10 Sep 07 - 09:51 AM
GUEST,Minerva 10 Sep 07 - 09:28 AM
katlaughing 10 Sep 07 - 12:37 AM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 07 - 12:23 AM
Riginslinger 09 Sep 07 - 11:05 PM
katlaughing 08 Sep 07 - 11:52 PM
Janie 08 Sep 07 - 09:32 PM
Uncle_DaveO 08 Sep 07 - 08:53 PM
Slag 08 Sep 07 - 08:19 PM
Amos 08 Sep 07 - 07:26 PM
Uncle_DaveO 08 Sep 07 - 05:33 PM
Little Hawk 08 Sep 07 - 05:24 PM
Amos 08 Sep 07 - 05:20 PM
katlaughing 08 Sep 07 - 05:13 PM
Little Hawk 08 Sep 07 - 04:00 PM
Slag 08 Sep 07 - 02:55 PM
Little Hawk 08 Sep 07 - 02:28 PM
Amos 08 Sep 07 - 09:41 AM
Lonesome EJ 08 Sep 07 - 03:30 AM
Little Hawk 04 Sep 07 - 09:56 PM
katlaughing 04 Sep 07 - 09:41 PM
Little Hawk 04 Sep 07 - 09:14 PM
Janie 04 Sep 07 - 06:38 PM
katlaughing 04 Sep 07 - 09:28 AM
Riginslinger 04 Sep 07 - 07:45 AM

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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 15 Sep 07 - 01:21 PM

Thanks. I'll look around for it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 15 Sep 07 - 12:45 AM

Great news, kat!

I loved "Life of Pi" too. My son and I listened to it on a long road trip a couple of years ago. (That is not to say it is a children's book.) It is one of the few audio books that we have listened to over and over again, or will even listen to a random selection on a short trip or for half and hour in the evening when we get home late from something like soccer practice. I pick up some previously missed nuance almost everytime I listen.

LH, A young teen's family from Indian decides to emmigrate to Canada. The ship goes down. The boy ends up adrift in a lifeboat. It is a brilliantly imaginative novel that explores spiritual and psychological survival and resiliency. At least that is my description. I will be interested to see how Nick describes it. From what I know of you from the 'Cat, I think you would find it a very satisfying read.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 15 Sep 07 - 12:01 AM

Bravo, Kat!!! Congratulations.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 09:55 PM

Your compliment to the artistry of Lord of the Rings is spot on.

What is "The Life of Pi" about?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Nickhere
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 08:33 PM

Good grammar is important. I have often seen a brochure, catalogue or other material being very well presented but totally ruined at the last minute by bad punctuation, spelling mistakes and so on. Most of the world might not notice, but to the few who do, the offending errors stick out like ' a vast bowl of pus' to quote Monty Python. Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots and leaves" is an excellent book for dealing with punctuation, though at time it plods on rather ponderously. But it's not just a matter of 'being correct and propah' because, as Lynne's book prefectly illustrates, a cavalier attitude to syntax, grammar etc., can result in radically different meanings. Consider -

"They could have not wasted all the money" V. "They couldn't have wasted all the money"

See any difference? (I hope so)

But apart from that, if you are talking about creative writing, many other factors come into play. I feel creative writing should a) say something new, or in a new way b) enagage your attention   c) have beautifully crafted prose - economy of word, fluidity of line

Obvious examples include Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" and "Cuomo vs. O'Connor" by Ellen McCormack (for how to present an argument systematically and devastatingly), Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (for how to develop an imaginary world in such consistent detail that it stops all disbelief), "The Machine Gunners" by Robert Westall (for accurately portraying an adolescent's experience of wartime UK, and on being an adolescent dealing with monolithic parents, school bullies and a grown-up world and politics).

I have just finished reading "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. I literally could not put it down. The prose is sublime. The insights astonishing. I have read it while queuing at the bank, while my customers weren't looking, at the breakfast table, on the public transport till my eyes hurt.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 08:18 PM

Very good!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,kat out of town
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 06:43 PM

Heya! I got the editing job!! I'll tell ya more when I get home. Thanks for all of your good wishes!!!

luvyakat


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 01:59 PM

I read an interesting book once -- "Addicted to Mediocrity". One of the author's themes (and he used cinema to illustrate it) was that it is a modern sensibility to measure art by "realism" or "functionalism". When, in fact, it is up to the artist to create the reality within the work, and up to us, as viewers, readers, listeners to be the judge of the successful manufacture of that world.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 01:49 PM

I read them over and over again, Slag. I think they are absolutely wonderful. Mind you, I was in my 20s and 30s when I was reading them, and I had more patience and more joy in savoring the details then, I think, than I would now....plus, everything seemed fresher and more unexpected then than it does now.

I don't know if I would enjoy them so much at present as I did then.

The thing is, when you really love something or someone you want the author to go into more detail about it or them. It's like when you're looking at a face you love....is one second's glance enough? After all, you've seen the whole face in one second, haven't you? Well, no, one second's glance is not nearly as good as five minutes of rapturous obervation...and five minutes is not as good as ten.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 08:56 AM

Slag asked:

Did you never read J.R.R. Tolkein's Bored, er, Lord of the Rings trilogy??

Yes, six times so far!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 05:14 AM

Brevity is what the editor and the publisher want. When you are being paid by the word the incentive is to linger over the description, background, history, relations, etc. It can be a real tug-of-war. The reader is left to decide who won the argument. What? Did you never read J.R.R. Tolkein's Bored, er, Lord of the Rings trilogy??


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:33 PM

Exactly


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:27 PM

Thy tongue, that maketh thee a wag,
Now seemeth through thy upper cheeks to brag.
At least we hope 'tis so, who love thee ever;
For if 'tis not, why then the cheeks are nether.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:20 PM

Oh, I'm reading alright. By the time I read the Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Time, the Rocky Mountain News, Mudcat, etc, I barely have time to get through Dickens, Balzac, and Thomas Freakin Hardy! And as for Classics Illustrated, it beat the hell out of Cliff's Notes from a visual standpoint, when it came to completing a book report on Frankenstein that was due the next morning.

And don't even mention Shakespeare. The guy could never just say "the horse farted." It would be something like "oh steed that does't sometime give forth with noble neigh, why now from they nether quarters must thou bray?" I mean, that stuff was fine for Henry VIII. In fact, whatever time Henry spent trying to figure out what the hell Shakespeare was getting at, was time spent not executing his wives or spreading the pox among his serving wenches.

Now Eric Seagal, there was an author. What was Love Story, 94 pages? And if Eric could get falling in love, getting married, the girl dying, and the guy coming to a greater realization in 94 pages, why the heck Tolstoy couldn't cram Napoleon's invasion of Russia into 140 or so is inconceivable to me.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 03:11 PM

It's true, back then people had more time to read mostly because it, along with music, etc. was the only entertainment there was, at least for the middle and upper classes.

It's also true folks today find it difficult to find time for reading BUT there are still best sellers' list and still authors who become fabulously wealthy writing book after book which sell well. So...somebody is still reading!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 02:05 PM

And I goofed. I see that I wrote: that the end of the reading of the novel is already ended.

The end is ended? Oh-oh! I could have been briefer by making that last word "here".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 02:00 PM

LonesomeEJ opined:

I have no doubt I could render the entire 330 page novel down to 42 pages, and possibly 35 if I got rid of all of the adjectives. I am also quite sure that, using my method, * * * The House of the Seven Gables could be finished on two or three commutes to one's workplace by simply reading at the stoplights.

Those who argue against brevity unconsciously argue for the end of reading and the novel in our culture.


LEJ, whoever argues for the kind of brevity you're talking about argues immediately that the end of the reading of the novel is already ended (or at least ending) in our culture.

Who would WANT to read The Mayor of Casterbridge in 42 pages? Only devotees of Classics Comics! Who would WANT to "read The House of Seven Gables on a flight from Chicago to Omaha, with time to peruse the in-flight magazine"? Only fans of Cliff's Notes as a high art form. Only those who don't really enjoy reading.

This is a fast-moving world, and the only effective way to allow literature to compete with film, music etc is to make it more conveniently consummable [sic].

To apply "brevity", your whole post comes down to: "To make literature compete with other media, abolish literature."

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 01:05 PM

John

I don't get your point, but I like the brevity with which you got to it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:51 PM

"Brevity is best. Period.

From Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge
"The thunder of bowls echoed from the backyard; swingels hung behind the blower of the chimney; and ex-poachers and ex-gamekeepers, whom squires had persecuted without a cause, sat elbowing each other- men who in past times had met in fights under the moon, till lapses of sentences on the one part, and loss of favor and expulsion from service on the other, brought them here together to a common level, where they sat calmly discussing old times."

Hardy improved
"This was a place where old poachers and old gamekeepers could meet in peace and talk about the old times."

Do you see how much clearer and more concise my re-phrasing is? I have no doubt I could render the entire 330 page novel down to 42 pages, and possibly 35 if I got rid of all of the adjectives. I am also quite sure that, using my method, one could read Moby Dick on a flight from Chicago to Omaha and still have time to peruse the in-flight magazine. One could read the entire Old Testament while waiting to get his teeth cleaned. The House of the Seven Gables could be finished on two or three commutes to one's workplace by simply reading at the stoplights.

Those who argue against brevity unconsciously argue for the end of reading and the novel in our culture. This is a fast-moving world, and the only effective way to allow literature to compete with film, music etc is to make it more conveniently consummable. The Hardy quote lies steaming on the table before one's eyes like a huge plate of mutton and potatoes, and today's reader would frankly rather have a taco. "


And the pinnacle of fine art was the Rococo.

Craftsman? damn hacks.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:28 PM

There is a certain type of brevity prevalent in this culture that is not admirable in the least, because it is just aggressive primitivism admiring itself in the mirror. It's like a teenage kid who walks up to a magnificent Renaissance fresco, looks at it uncomprehendingly, and scrawls "Fuck You!" on it with a magic marker. He then goes off feeling quite proud of himself for having confronted the elegant past with his fresh and modern outlook. He knows he is superior to anything that happened more than five minutes ago. He takes no prisoners. Mercy is a concept that has never even occurred to him.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:28 PM

Mind your step, there, good Hack. Arrogance preceedeth a great fall.

The relish of personal superiority has no there there.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:13 PM

They may also be battling bloviation: pretentious use of overly flowery language designed to impress the reader with the utter brilliance of the author. Elegance is a wonderful thing, assuredly. Opulence and bloviation, on the other hand, can go way too far...

It's fun to make fun of it now and then by doing it deliberately and ostentatiously, though. ;-) Just talk as if you have a potatoe lodged in one cheek, are speaking through a wod of cotton wool, and holding your tea cup with one pinkie sticking delicately out to the side, whilst gazing superciliously down your elevated Roman nose at the pathetic examples of humanity for whom you have deigned to drop a few petals of your divine wisdom. And pity them.

Ah! The ennui of it all! Pearls before swine, really.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:11 PM

Brevity is best. Period.

From Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge
"The thunder of bowls echoed from the backyard; swingels hung behind the blower of the chimney; and ex-poachers and ex-gamekeepers, whom squires had persecuted without a cause, sat elbowing each other- men who in past times had met in fights under the moon, till lapses of sentences on the one part, and loss of favor and expulsion from service on the other, brought them here together to a common level, where they sat calmly discussing old times."

Hardy improved
"This was a place where old poachers and old gamekeepers could meet in peace and talk about the old times."

Do you see how much clearer and more concise my re-phrasing is? I have no doubt I could render the entire 330 page novel down to 42 pages, and possibly 35 if I got rid of all of the adjectives. I am also quite sure that, using my method, one could read Moby Dick on a flight from Chicago to Omaha and still have time to peruse the in-flight magazine. One could read the entire Old Testament while waiting to get his teeth cleaned. The House of the Seven Gables could be finished on two or three commutes to one's workplace by simply reading at the stoplights.

Those who argue against brevity unconsciously argue for the end of reading and the novel in our culture. This is a fast-moving world, and the only effective way to allow literature to compete with film, music etc is to make it more conveniently consummable. The Hardy quote lies steaming on the table before one's eyes like a huge plate of mutton and potatoes, and today's reader would frankly rather have a taco.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 11:38 AM

They are battling excess, the kind of long-windedness that comes from a paucity of good thinking.

Exactly.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 10:50 AM

Well, I would qualify it -- make any exposition as brief as possible, but no briefer. I think elegance is a better word. It applies to the way you choose words in structuring sentences so that you don't need to say the same thing in twenty words IF it can be said as well or better in ten.

Brevity that detracts from communication is a sheer waste of brevity.
But that is not what is meant when writing advisors urge brevity. They are battling excess, the kind of long-windedness that comes from a paucity of good thinking.

"Screw brevity." is a wonderful, ironic, and elegant sentence. Brava.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 09:51 AM

Well, said, Minerva. It's about time someone challenged the common assumption that brevity in writing is best, and I think you are quite correct about how the fad for brevity got started in the mid-twentieth century. It has produced some good writing...and some really dreadful stuff too.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Minerva
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 09:28 AM

"Brevity" is not an absolute of good writing. We had this mis-guided concept pounded into our heads in school, along with other screwy ideas like, "never plagiarize".

Dickens was never brief. Neither were Victor Hugo, Lev Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov, or Paul the Apostle. These are only a few examples of folks who wrote some of the most beautiful descriptions, and developed some of the most fascinating characters in literature, in particular, by not being brief.

It's my opinion that brevity became a fad in the middle of the last century, by establishment types who were over-impressed with Hemingway and others, some of whom were actually pretty good at descriptions despite the fact that they were brief. Magazine editors have taken over the gospel of brief, and it's obvious that their approach has generally hackneyed and clichee'd the english language into sappy pulp. Hemingway once said Beryl Markham "... could write rings around us all..." Yet she was not brief. (He was right.)

It's not as though all modern stuff is brief - you can use the typical Seteven King novel as a doorstop.

It is my opinion that for most kinds of writing, it is the ability to let the reader feel what the character is feeling, or understand what the character is understanding (or think they understand the situation better than the character!) that is an absolute of good writing.

If it's brief, that's fine. Well-done Haiku can give a glimpse of this sometimes. But writing doesn't have to be brief to accomplish it. Who has ever looked at the sky the same way again after lying on the field of Borodino with Prince Bolkonski? Or heard a lion roar, and not felt the sweat on the steel rod in your hand, after hunkering in the grass with Lakweit?

Screw brief.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:37 AM

Or ellipses ala BillD...you know (I just love using them, don't you?) they pause, refresh...give one a moment (if not more) to really take in the essence of what is being said (provided the writer is clear and succinct or just trailing off)...ah, the ellipses...I could write a poem to them (but then I'd have to find my rhyming dictionary!)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:23 AM

Only, I think, when the writer, in an attempt to qualify his statements becomes, overtly, hesitant in his prose, not to mention unclear in his object do commas become, unfortunately, an epidement, or obstacle, to good writing. I much prefer parentheses (at least, when used appropriately).


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 11:05 PM

It seems to me that commas are hugely overused. They slow down the reader, and many times don't add to clarity or meaning.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 11:52 PM

Thank you, all, very much! I hope I hear from them very soon. I will be sure to let you know, either way.

As to commas, here's what the Chicago Manual of Style has to say, in one Q&A section:

Please see CMOS 6.18: "The comma, aside from its technical uses in mathematical, bibliographical, and other contexts, indicates the smallest break in sentence structure. It denotes a slight pause. Effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with ease of reading the end in view."


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 09:32 PM

I'm not at all surprised you have wowed them, Kat. Will continue to send good thoughts and energy your way.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 08:53 PM

Slag said:

A living language is always in a state of flux and grammar and usage are bound to shift. The spoken word is much more dynamic than the written word which is invariably slower to change but change it does.

Hear, hear!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 08:19 PM

Yes Kat! Congratulations do seem in order, thus far at any rate, and may it be so to your desired end.

Good point Dave. When the relation of the words in the list is not clear (in your example monotone vs two-tone) the comma and the conjunction delineate the nature of the relationship. But, such is not always the case! And where there is much diversity as in your further example, the use of the semi-colon does the job much better than the comma (in my humble opinion).

A living language is always in a state of flux and grammar and usage are bound to shift. The spoken word is much more dynamic than the written word which is invariably slower to change but change it does.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 07:26 PM

As very germane to this thread and a gift to those who read it, the following post (in another thread) by Katlaughing:

""Why does anybody tell a story?" Ms. L'Engle once asked, even though she knew the answer.

"It does indeed have something to do with faith," she said, "faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically."


What a beautiful and elegant way to put it. And, by what an incredible storyteller. Sorry to hear of her passing. Thanks for this thread."



The quote is from the late Madeleine l'Engle.

It struck me in some deep place.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:33 PM

Slag asked:

Question: If a comma links a related series of words or short phrases, isn't it redundant to put a comma before the "and" in the penultimate item? For example, "-----, -----, -----, and -----." I believe the correct punctuation should be "-----, -----, ----- and -----." Any thoughts on that one?

Slag, style manuals vary (and argue vehemently) on this. I was taught in grade school, as I suppose you were, to omit that comma, but I have been converted to think that it's better to put the comma before the "and" except in certain special cases.

Let's put a series sentence down both ways, and see if there is or at least could be a difference in meaning:

"The parking lot contained about a hundred VW beetles, painted differently: red, mustard green, blue, and yellow."
    or
"The parking lot contained about a hundred VW beetles, painted differently: red, mustard green, blue and yellow."

Now, can you tell me about that second example? Were the VWs all single colors, or was one or more of them painted two-tone? If the practice is to place a comma before "and" in a series, the absence of the comma is significant, and there's at least one two-tone VW there. If the practice is always to leave out the last comma, there's no way to tell the function of the word "and".

One might go further with the VW paint scheme list:
"The parking lot contained about a hundred VW beetles, painted differently: shocking pink, stripes and polka dots, red, Kelly green, black, mustard green, waving American flags, and blue and yellow."
In such a listing, the presence or absence of the comma is even more clearly significant.

Additionally, I've read somewhere in a book on the English language and its development (but don't ask me where, because I've forgotten) that the "and" is not historically a substitute for a comma, as I think is implied in your question.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:24 PM

That, is, so, true. Where, would, we, be, without, commas?

Well done, Kat.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:20 PM

Well done, Kat.

Slag, the use of series commas traditionally has always included the use of one before the "and", if there are commas to be used at all. Your rebuttal to this guideline is logical because of the meaning of the word and, but as a guide to the reading eye, the comma is useful.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:13 PM

Well, I made it to the final cut for the editing job. I just sent in my final editing test. The Sr. Ed. said to think of it as a "tie breaker" so wish me luck?! He also paid me some pretty high compliments, including that my previous two editing tests were "spot on!"


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 04:00 PM

Yeah, you're probably right about that, Slag. The character always outlives the author in the end.

But here's a tip. There's one way to unencumber yourself of one of those endless, useless arguments that people get in on political threads and other such contentious threads. You simply let the other guy have the last word...and you never respond to it. ;-)

Eventually he forgets all about it and goes off to fight with somebody else instead of you. It saves much pointless aggravation for the one who is wise enough not to insist on having the last word.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 02:55 PM

OK. Here's the deal on colons or semi-colons. A colon is used for "eyes wide open" as in :) or :0 or even :Q. < (that's a period, not a dot). And, of course a semi-colon is not to be taken seriously ;). It's so simple...

Actually the colon says "Note what follows" and the semi-colon says "Such as...".

Its interesting to me to observe who has posted to this thread and how often. Good writers all, I'd say.

Question: If a comma links a related series of words or short phrases, isn't it redundant to put a comma before the "and" in the penultimate item? For example, "-----, -----, -----, and -----." I believe the correct punctuation should be "-----, -----, ----- and -----." Any thoughts on that one?

Also (I should note in passing) LH seems to like to get the last word in. There's nothing wrong with that but don't get too comfortable LH. I gotta feeling that when ALL is said and done, it will be Chongo writing your obit!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 02:28 PM

Man, what a killer ending. It gives me chills when I read it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 09:41 AM

Goddam, that's fine.

I wish Peter were around more.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 03:30 AM

Thanks for the compliment, Little Hawk. I love Jen's stuff, and your stuff, and Amos and Kat's, but as an example of good writing, I would point to a piece of Peter T's work that was pure in concept and execution. It came at the end of the first Blake Madison story. I had brought it to a slam-bang detective end. Then I had added a post-script that I thought was one of the better tear-jerker endings I've tried. Then Peter weighed in with this ....


And then it was late.
"Is it too late for us, Baby?" I asked, pouring her another drink.
"I'll tell you what, Blake. Nice name, Blake, by the way. Reminds me of the poet."
"Madison remind you of anyone?"
"President, right?"
"Right, Baby."
"Well, if he doesn't appear on any small or medium sized money, I don't know anything about him."
"What happened to you, Baby? You're a smart girl, beautiful, but you sure are connected to a lot of dismal men."
"I tell you what, Blake. Parting gift. It's like this. When I was a little girl, you know, back in wherever it was, my father and my mother used to fight all the time, like hell, all the time, you know."
"Yeah, I know."
"Well, when you're a kid you think, well, you think it's your fault, or you should be able to do something about it." She looked at me, with those violet eyes. "You think you should be able to do something about it." She was starting to cry.
"So, Baby, so what did you do?"
"So, what I did was -- sorry. So when he hit me I used to let him do it. It was like I was some kind of absorbent cotton. You know, the hunks of fluffy stuff you make sheep out of in Sunday school. Like I could absorb all his hate just by standing there, just letting him take it out on me. I used to let him do it. Bang, bang, he'd hit me, and I'd suck it in. I thought I could make it all right. I'd take the hate, and they would love each other, and me, and we would all love each other. You know, magic, kid's stuff. Poof, the world is beautiful." She held her drink in her hand, feeling the roundness of the glass.
"Remember, Blake, how you asked me once, a long time ago, about suffering --"
"Yeah, sure, Baby, a lifetime ago."
"Well that's what I was there for. To make it all go away. That was my role, my magic. So when I grew up, I just carried on, you know."
If there was music playing somewhere, it wasn't nice music.
"The thing is, Blake, there's a lot of hate in the world, a lot of good things that people are just trying to fuck up. It's like love -- you start something, it goes along for awhile, and then, who knows --"
"Entropy?"
"Huh?"
I looked at her. "Everything unravels unless you work at it, and even then ---"
She smiled ruefully. "Well, you've been there, Blake, I can tell."
It was even later than I thought. She reached over for her purse. She was getting ready to go.
"So when I went on the street -- yeah, I went on the street -- that was what I tried to think. Here I am, the Sunday school sheep, dabbing up all the mudpuddles, all the fuckedup sadness of all these fuckedup men. Stupid, really. I was the fuckedup one."
She struggled to open her purse to check to see if she had enough money to get wherever it was she was going. I waved some of her own money, the stuff she had given me earlier; but she shook her head.
I took another sip of my Scotch, trying to think of how to keep her from going. All I could think of was: "As Holden Caulfield used to say, you could scrape forever and you could still never get rid of all the FUCK YOUs written on all the walls of the world."
She nodded, got up from her barstool and turned to me. "Anyway, Blake, that was a long way round to a kind of goodbye. You're sweet, and we've had a lot of laughs, but I am all absorbed up. I can't take your pain, and I can't mend your threads. No fluff left, I'm afraid."
I gave her a look that I hoped said how much I understood. She was alright, was Baby Gentry. Perhaps in another time, and another place, it would have worked out. Perhaps not. She reached over and kissed me, once, on the mouth.
"Sorry", she said, "I taste like the salt on a margarita, without the margarita."
I said I didn't mind. She walked a little unsteadily to the door. I saw her silhouetted briefly in the dire purple glow from the flashing sign across the street. For a moment, it was as if she had become a neon angel at the gates of some kind of Paradise Betrayed.
And then she was gone forever.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:56 PM

Oh, yeah. I forgot. Yes, Peter T. is also just about untouchable in that regard. I haven't read as much of his material.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:41 PM

Me, too, LH, along with PeterT.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:14 PM

This is a little off topic, but the person on Mudcat whose writing skill I think surpasses all others among us is Lonesome E.J. The man is positively superb at writing. 100% professional quality.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 06:38 PM

Chiming in very late, John McPhee is the writer whose skill I most admire.   

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:28 AM

Oops, sorry about that! Thanks.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 07:45 AM

Thanks, but just for the record, my names not Frank. I have a tendancy to be frank sometimes, but...


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